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OUR VIEW: Feds should be further along on sedimentation fix

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opinion Mitchell, 57301
The Daily Republic
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Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Since the construction of Gavins Point Dam in the mid-1950s, Lewis and Clark Lake has lost 29 percent of its original storage capacity to sediment build-up.

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That’s not surprising. Put a plug in a muddy river, and mud is going to collect.

What is surprising all these six decades since the dam was built is that we still don’t have a solution to the sedimentation problem -- not only at Gavins Point, where the sedimentation is especially severe, but also at other dams along the Missouri River where the problem will inevitably grow.

Our federal government should be ashamed. It is still conducting meetings and pondering its options for dealing with sedimentation. Affected people and organizations are growing panicked. At a meeting last week in Springfield, the cost of any solution was apparently feared to be so astronomical, experts dared not even speak an estimate out loud.

More should have been done already. The problem has been a slow-moving train, and the federal government has been standing on the tracks watching it grow bigger and bigger on the horizon. With every year that passes, the solution becomes more complex and more expensive.

Whatever progress has been made toward an eventual fix, it’s mostly because of people who live near the affected area. Various groups, including the Missouri Sedimentation Action Coalition, have been educating the public and government officials about the problem for a long time.

We hope those local people and organizations continue pushing, and the government officials take heed. It’s a big problem that will need big financial and technical involvement by the federal government to fix, and we need a unified voice from the lowest-ranking local officials in small towns around the reservoir up to our congressional delegation.

Failing to solve the sedimentation problem would bring disastrous effects to water systems, tourism, hydropower, the recreational fishing and watersports industries, and countless other aspects of our state’s economy and way of life.

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